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The One About the Piranhas, Electric Eels, and Boa Constrictors

By B. A. Peterson

Bloodbath (June 30, 1950)

Synopsis and critique

Written by James Poe

Harris – Vincent Price
Dumont – Paul Frees

Paul Frees: ‘’Tired of the every day routine? Ever dream of a life of romantic adventure? Want to get away from it all. We offer you…Escape!

Tom Hanlon (announcer): Escape, designed to free you from the four walls of today for a half hour of high adventure. Cymbals clash. Escape, brought to you by your Richfield gasoline dealer and the Richfield Oil Corporation of New York, marketers of Richfield gasolines with xylene, Richlube all-weather motor oil and other famous petroleum products. Look for the Richfield eagle on the cream-and-blue pumps.


Paul Frees: ‘’Tonight, we escape to the jungles of South America, and a seething tale of terror and violence, as told by James Poe in ...Blood Bath, starring Mr. Vincent Price.’’ Organ and cymbals.

‘’By portaging the rapids and walking the mules in the shallower stretches,'' says Vincent Price as Harris, ''We’d managed to get our supplies and equipment more than seventeen hundred miles up the river. After this, further navigable passage being impossible, we traveled by foot, hacking our way through the thick, steaming jungle, coaxing and goading the heavily laden beasts. We’d left the jungle and begun the climb. Eleven days later, high in the Andes, we found our objective, and we set to work. Hard work. And then, on a hazy afternoon in late May, we found it. I shall never forget the scene….’’

Soft music begins to play under Vincent Price’s calm and reflective voice as he continues his narrative. He’s one of five men: Dumont, Hess, Weems, Harris, O’Brien, who ''came to the end of our rainbow, found our pot of gold.''

Four men gather anxiously around the fifth, Hess, who is setting up the geiger counter. He puts in a sample, and the noise of hte geiger counter goes up the scale. The quintette break into ecstatic howls of triumph - for they have found the richest vein of uranium ore known to man!

''Do you boys realize what we've got here?'' asks Hess. ''We've got the world at our feet. Why, the man who gests this strike registered in his name can be a king! ...Every country in the world is going to come running up to him with trunks full of money and power!''

''Yes, says Harris excitedly. ''We'll make the United States the most powerful country on earth!''

‘’Why,'' says Hess coldly, ''the United States?’’

''You wouldn't sell to anyone else, would you?'' Harris protests incredulously.

''I'm a business man, Harris.'' ''You're a fool!'

‘’Gents, we’ve go the world at our feet.’’

‘’Split five ways.’’

''The world at our feet,'' Harris resumes dreamily, ''split five ways. That night as I lay huddled under my thin blanket I wondered what it would be like, being a wealthy man. Wondered how it would effect the others, how it would effect me. In the morning we were to set off on the long return journey down to the jungle to the launch and down the river to civilization. There we’d register our claim, purchase if need be the land, lease it perhaps from the government.'' Harris yawns mightily. ''Millionaires....the world at our feet... Uranium, enough to blow up the whole universe. Power…’’

‘’Wake up, Harris, wake up!’’ Hess's voice is brittle.

Harris makes various waking up sounds. Then, cheerfully, ‘’Oh, good morning, millionaire.’’ ''Weems, wake up!''

''Sun's coming up,'' Harris says cheerfully. Then: ''Hey! Where are the others?''



''Yes! Dumont and O'Brien! They took the mules and most of the food and cut out!''


''How should I know when?" Hess is losing his cool. ''Sometime during the night.''

''But why?'' cries Weems.

''A trillion bucks, that's why!''

''no! No! No!''

‘’Once they get down to the jungle they’ll have to travel on foot.'' Hess informs them. ''There’s ten days march to the river. If they beat us to the boat we’re stuck with fifteen hundred miles of jungle between us and safety.’’

‘’Fifteen?'' gasps Weems. ''Impossible! We’d never make a hundred!’’

‘’That’s right. We’ve got to catch ‘em, or we’re dead.’’

''We traveled as lightly as possible.'' Harris resumes. ''It was a risky business, doubly so because O’Brien and Dumont had taken our guns with 'em. The only weapons we had between us were one long machete and two pocket knives. These would be of little protection against jaguars, bushmasters, tapirs, boa constrictors and the rest of it. Fortunately they'd left our number one necessity for survival – they’d forgotten to take our quinine.

The long descent to the jungle was slow goin’ on foot. It was here that we nearly gave up hope.’’ Harris’ voice takes on an exhausted note. ‘’We moved as fast as we could but we were no match for men who were riding.’’

Sound of machetes hacking into undergrowth. Harris continues, tiredly. ‘’But we reached the jungle. Then things took a better turn. Here the thick vines and heavy undergrowth was, we knew, almost an impossible hazard for a riding man. We could see their bootprints mingled with those of the mules, we knew that they were havin’ trouble too. The animals were afraid of many things in the jungle, would balk suddenly, require careful handling.’’

Mosquiitoes, pume flies, moutokas, and the blood-sucking carpatho ticks, and of course the jungle itself with its never-ending barrage of razor grasses, needle vines, swamps, bog traps and so forth. It was hot, stinking hot, and the going was hard, but we had to make it.

We couldn’t travel at night. (Night noises). They’d taken our flashlights. We’d bundle up, protecting ourselves, not from the cold, it was hot, even at night. From the bats. Vampire bats! Ever seen em? They’re small, rather fragile looking little things. By day they hang, heads down from the trees, wings folded clusters of rotten fruit. By night, they hunt. They have razor sharp teeth, bite like the finest steel scalpels. Their object is to break the skin very gently, start the blood to coming, then they simply hang on, and sip. Without mosquito netting we had a rough time, a sleepless time...

Then, on the third day….they hear the sound of a rifle shot. One….then another..and then another. They run. Half an hour later they break into a little clearing – and find Dumont, shot in the back. They turn him over to see that he’d contracted malaria. The three men's voices are thick with thirst and weary as they discuss events. ‘’Dumont got milaria…probably started to slow him down…’’ ‘’Sweet guy, that Obie.’’ ‘’You know what would be nice? ….If that Obie should get malaria now. He’d ask me for quinine, and I’d throw him a stone.’’ Hess's voice literally drips with hatred.

They continue following the tracks – no more bootmarks – O’Brien is probably riding one of the animals…

We followed the tracks for another two days. And then on the sixth day, we found one of the mules! ‘’

‘’How ya feelin’ boy? Where’s your saddle?’’ Sound of hand slapping the flank of the mule. The mule is worn out....marks of vampire bats on his flanks.

Suddenly there's the sound of an engine trying to turn over. ''Hey, that's the launch!'' yells Hess.

‘’We’re to the river!’’ It was only a few hundred yards. The men run out onto a white sandbar and there, not thirty feet away from them, was O’Brien and the launch.’’

''O'Brien!!!!!'' The men scream at him. From far away, ‘’Beat ya, I beat ya all!’’ Maniacal laughter.

''O'Brien was feeble, sweaty, possessed. He had the fever, had it bad.''

''Obie!'' yells Hess. ''You know me, Obie! It's you're ol pal Hessy!''

O'Brien was so weak that he could barely spin the flywheel to the kicker, as he tried to get the launch started. Hess means to go into the water after the launch, but.. ‘’Ya can’t, this is piranha water!’’ ‘’Cannibal fish, they’ll eat ya, Hess!’’

O'Brien...falls into the water. ''One moment we saw him, swimng weakly, his large fever ridden eyes turned imploring toward us...the next moment he was gone, leaving only a large, red patch on the water.

The piranhas are small....with large, powerful jaws...teeth like broken glass…and an insatiable, maniacal appetite for flesh!''

Harris' voice is filled with despair. ''The launch, caught in the deep, dark fast moving water.…moved on down stream and away. Away around a bend and out of sight.''

COMMERCIAL: ''The march of science over the yes has produced better than ever gasoline for your car. But now science ads one of the greatest gasoline components of all. It’s called xylene! Xylene, a super gasoline component adds two great qualities to gasoline. Xylene gives higher than ever anti-knock performance. Xylene means power! Today, every gallon of Richfield gasoline contains xylene. If you want a motor that runs quiet as a whisper, if you want pick up and power to spare, try Richfield gasoline with xylene. Your Richfield dealer offers a choice of two great Richfield gasolines with xylene. Richfield high octane at regular price for the average motor, or Richfield ethel, ethel at its best, for tip top results in the highest compression motors. Drive in where you see the Richfield Eagle on the cream-and-blue pumps. Get Richfield gasoline with xylene. Xylene, one of the highest anti-knock components in gasoline history. And now, we return you to Escape! Starring Vincent Price.''

Harris’ voice is exhausted, despairing, as is the music playing softly under his words. ‘’We picked over the supplies O’Brien had left on the shore. There wasn’t much we wanted. A gun without ammunition, a few tins of food, a tent and some bedding, cooking equipment, a coil of rope. We loaded these things onto the mule and set off through the jungle, downstream along the river’s course. Fifteen hundred miles to civilization.’’

They managed to cover five miles that first day. But the next day, the survivors rounded a bend and saw, not a quarter mile below them, and grounded on the opposite shore – the launch!

The three men cluster around the river’s edge, desperate to get to the launch on the other side. The water was shallow – you could run it in seconds. But all around them, the little cannibal fish waited for just such a foolhardy attempt.

Finally, Weems comes up with a plan. They would all three ride the mule [three grown men on one mule? Right! ed] ‘’’He’s not showing anything to them but hoofs and hair,’’ boasts Hess as they start out into the water. But the mule is too weak to make it, and while the piranhas churned the water about them, electric eels also made their appearance. The three men exhorted the mule to move faster, and finally it stumbles onto a sandbar about halfway between them and the launch, and there they are, stuck.

Weems comes up with another plan. One man rides the mule, with a rope tied to the mule’s bridle so that the two men remaining can pull the mule back. Harris and Hess agree. Harris tends to the rope, while Weems, who’s the lightest, is chosen to ride the mule first. He requests the machete, and although Hess is somewhat suspicious about this, he hands it over.

‘’No funny business, Weems,’’ warns Hess. ‘’One twitch of this rope while you’re over that water and…’’ ‘’You’re a sharp guy,’’ says Weems, ‘’but not sharp enough!’’ And he cuts the rope with the machete and urges the mule out into the water. The two men scream at him while Weems exhorts the mule to go faster, to no avail. A couple of electric eels attack, sending the mule lurching sideways. Weems strikes at one of them with the machete, makes contact, and it sends paralyzing shocks through his body. He falls off the mule, into the water, and the two men on the sand bar look away. No man could watch what was happening to weems and retain his sanity.

The two men spend the night trapped on the sandbar. ‘’A thousand years later…came the dawn.’’ The river has washed a lot of the sand away by the next morning – the bar is no bigger than a card table.

Hess wants to shake hands with Harris. ''We've played it straight.'' ''That's right,'' agrees Harris. Hess proposes his idea. ‘’Look up there. See that vine, hanging from the big tree?’’ ‘’It’s over the water and it must be fifty feet up!’’

''Yeah, but if we could lasso it, we could do a Tarzan to the shore.'' ''It'll work,'' says Harris excitely. It takes them two hours before they managed to lasso the end of that vine. Then Hess climbs up onto Harris’ shoulders, and launches himself, his feet skimming the water til he lands on the shore.. ‘’Good boy, good boy!’’ cries Harris, and Hess is laughing too. ''Any rocks around there?'' Harris calls - for Hess is to tie a rock to the end of the vine and swing it back. But Hess only smiles.

‘’I knew that smile, that trillion dollar smile, it said, so long, sucker!’’

‘’Don’t do it, Hess!!!!!!!’’

‘’He stood there, laughing at me, shaking his head slowly.'' Harris sees a vine in a tree above Hess, and it's moving. He calls out a warning but Hess ignores him.

A boa constrictor drops from the tree above. There’s a scream from Hess, then nothing. ‘’A few hours later the boa slithered, lumpily, away.''

Harris waits, and waits. ‘’A few times I thought about ending it all....But, I couldn’t. And then I noticed the current that had been sweeping the sand away had shifted slightly…a whim, a miracle…I watched..and I watched..and I watched…and at five o’clock that afternoon I walked ashore. Didn’t even get my feet wet.’’

Music bridge.

‘’It’s nice where I live.'' Harris voice is soft and dreamy. Content. ''Quiet little street, nice people, nice kids. Nice country. Peaceful. Nice peace. I know where there’s enough uranium to blow it all to hell! Want it? Just go up the river. Up the river, it’s eh, for the taking. Ask Dumont, and Obie and Weems and Hess. A trillion bucks worth. Enough to give the whole world a blood bath! Your self included.’’

Dramatic the point sinks in.

Warm summer weather makes you think of baseball games, picnics, and holiday driving. But be sure your car’s ready when you are. Get Richfield’s all points safety service. The service that puts your car in top shape for warm weather driving. With Richfield all-points safety service, you get a careful, all point lubrication job, that protects the chassis, transmission and differential. You get lubricants that stick to your car’s ribs, no matter what the temperature. You get the protection of Richlube, all weather motor oil, the Pennsylvania premium grade oil that cleans as it lubricates. You also get a safety check of batteries, spark plugs, tires and radiators, and expert service if your car has automatic transmission. The Richfield gasoline dealer is specially trained to protect your car against wear and breakdown. So get Richfield all points safety service tomorrow. Look for the Richfield eagle on the cream and blue pumps.

‘’Escape is produced and directed by William N. Robson. And tonight starred Mr. Vincent Price. Bloodbath was written by James Poe. Others in the cast were Wally Mayer, Ted DeCorsia, Paul Frees and Tony Barrett. Special music arranged and played by Ivan Ditmars. Next week….!’’

Paul Frees: ‘’You are groping your way slowly through the dark hold of a ship at sea. Moving carefully, step by step, dreading to find know what you know is there…death! In the form of a deadly Bushmaster, from which there is no escape!’’

Announcer: ‘’Next week at this time the Richfield Oil Corporation of New York invites you to escape to the Caribbean, and the grim voyage of impending death, as Martin Storm tells it in his exciting tale, ‘A Shipment of Mute Fate.’ Goodbye then, until this same time next week, when once again we offer you…Escape! Tom Hanlon speaking, this is CBS, the Columbia Broadcasting System.

1950. The beginning of the Cold War, with the escalation of nuclear power bragging rights between the United States and the Soviet Union. Poe's script is a bit of a parable, illustrating the dangers of greed and power, and its effect on normal human beings when suddenly subjected to it.

''We'd purchase, if need be, the land...'' Hopefully the five men would purchase the land before telling the South American government what was in the land, and hopefully once the government did find out what was in the land they wouldn't oust those five Americans and take it back...and get the fortune for themselves and their country! (In other words, no way!)

A few authors have very distinctive writing styles - all you need to do is hear a few lines and you know who wrote the script. Author James Poe is such a writer. He piles adjective upon adjective in his sentences, danger upon danger. It can sometimes get more amusing than he means it to be - but it does make his scripts rather fun.

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